The donkey, St. Martin, and the Wine

November 10, 2011

A cluster of Chenin Blanc grapes

Old legend says that while St. Martin was visiting a monastery, his donkey enjoyed itself eating the grape vines outside in the vineyard. When the monks perceived the destruction they uttered loud cries believing the vineyard was ruined beyond redemption. But the grape vines recovered, and to the monks’ absolute amazement, the grapes that autumn produced a wine unlike anything they had ever produced before. Today, 1,500 years later, Touraine wine-makers are still growing grapes where St. Martin’s donkey regaled itself on the noble vines.

Bottle of Bachus d'Or from Touraine-Amboise, Loire Valley, France

Tradition also dates the pruning of grape vines to these ravages by St. Martin’s donkey. Since grape harvests after pruning has been done are so superior, vineyard owners have widely adopted this practice.

A vineyard in the Loire Valley, France



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  • There is so much talk today about environmental, ecological, natural, organic, "sustainable development." However, many of the "natural" efforts turn out disastrous.
    Well, this story has a lesson: there is a big difference between crops being ravished by straying animals, and grape vines that are clipped by a saint's donkey. The difference lies in the saint. So if we want natural solutions that really work, bringing sanctity into the mix is the way to go.

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